A Short Story of an Indian Engineer | A Talent, Undone

He was in Class 6 when Vijayawada Sitaramanjaneyula Rajasekhara Yarlagadda Venkata Samba Siva Rao (V, for the purposes of this article) saw his first chemistry experiment. He was mesmerised by how two “chemicals” could mix and form another new “chemical” with totally different properties including smell, colour and composition. He kept nagging his chemistry teacher to show him each experiment many times over. He knew at that moment, that he wanted to do something interesting in chemistry. By his own admission, physics didn’t interest him much. He liked mathematics. Every Madrasi loves maths anyway. 

Like most parents in India, V’s were delighted when they heard he wanted to study engineering. Actually, they were relieved, because they didn’t have to push him into engineering (which they would have had to, had he been interested in Fashion Designing or other “useless” fields).

He knew he wanted to be a chemical engineer.

By the time he was in Class 8, V had started attending coaching classes for the much-hyped IIT-JEE. His tutors were thoroughly impressed with his hard work and dedication, and gave him full-time coaching for an entire year after his Class 12. In the 6 years that ensued, V’s technical knowledge grew leaps and bounds. He cracked the JEE in his first attempt and opted for a B. Tech. in Chemical Engineering at IIT Madras.

In his four years at IIT Madras, he consistently topped the semester exams (he was a nine-pointer) and interned at three world-class factories. His B. Tech. project was “out of the world”, according to his faculty guide Dr. M. Rangasamy Iyengar. He presented five papers at international conferences and made renowned researchers sit upright and take notice. South India had produced yet another genius, probably the finest in Pure Sciences since the great Ramanujan himself. Here was a man, who could change the future of chemistry as we knew it. A Nobel Laureate, at the very least.

Then came the Campus Recruitments. Silverman Boxes, a corporate, offered him a six-figure salary for the position of Risks Analyst. He was reluctant to take the job up as it would mean drifting away from the love of his life, chemistry. Reappear: Parents! They cajoled him into taking up the job. He was shown a mirage of a settled life, a good wife, a respectable position in society. They told him to take up the job, then leave after a couple of years, making a respectable amount to keep going if he wanted a Ph. D. They were secretly relieved in the knowledge that it would never have to come to that.

Now, three years, four months and fifteen days since he started work with SB, V is in the US of A, having survived the recession, pink slips and works 80 hours a week as Senior Risk Management Analyst. His job has nothing to do with Chemistry. And he has nothing to show as proof of having a social life.

His profile, though enviable to many, looks sad to me.

Few reach the inner circle

Name: Vijayawada Sitaramanjaneyula Rajasekhara Yarlagadda Venkata Samba Siva Rao

Age: 26 years

Education: B. Tech. Chemical Engineering, IIT-Madras, CGPA: 9.82. Top of his class.

Notable Achievements: 5 IEEE Transactions Publications, Rs 1,00,000 research grant (like that would be enough) from the Government of India for his B. Tech. project, a bundle of merit certificates and all the universities in the world ready to give him a doctorate. Gold Medallist at the International Chemistry Olympiad.

Employers: Goldman Silverman Boxes, Senior Analyst
Deals with transactions in NASDAQ and manages risks of investments to the tune of $1.5bn.

Salary: Several zeros after a non-zero number (in US$!)

He now has a penthouse in Manhattan, a 212 phone number, and an assortment of luxury sedans. (All for what?)

Achievements at work: Consistently manages 80–100-hour work weeks, a few thousand hours in front of a computer terminal, blue-eyed boy of his employers and envy of his colleagues, who don’t happen to have a life either.

Happiness Quotient: “Hey! I took the job for the money, okay? And Money = Happiness. It’s better to cry sitting inside a BMW 740d rather than on a pavement!”

In his illustrious life, V made only two mistakes.

1. Taking up the job he did not love.
2. Thinking he was alone.

This is dedicated to all the V’s out there. Chase your dream.
(with inputs from Rishi Ayyer. Bhargav and Rishi are interning in NTMN’s Summer Internship Program.)

About the author

Bhargav Prasanna


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